The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther Book Two: November 8-December 6, 1772 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lotte chides Werther for drinking too much, and Wilhelm suggests that his friend should seek comfort in God. Werther, however, responds that God cannot possibly offer him solace, because God has forsaken him. Later, he considers that his fate (pining after Lotte) might be unique among all men, but then he remembers that unrequited love is often a theme taken up by ancient poets. Their books, he reminds himself, sometimes feel as though they are addressing him directly.
Werther undertakes the impressive task of comparing himself to Jesus Christ (who, when on the cross, famously asked God why He had forsaken him) as well any number of characters from classical literature. While dramatic, this highlights the magnitude of Werther’s emotions and narcissism. He’s sure none but the greatest have ever felt anything like them.
Themes
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
In late November, Werther stumbles upon Heinrich, a man searching for wildflowers to give to his sweetheart. Werther reminds him that the season (winter) isn’t right for wildflowers, but the man persists. They engage in conversation, and Heinrich confesses that he has been desperately unhappy lately. Before Werther can discover the source of Heinrich’s unhappiness, however, Heinrich’s mother approaches. From her, Werther discovers that Heinrich has only recently been released from an insane asylum and remains an invalid. Inside the asylum he was happy; outside, he is not. His sweetheart is imaginary. Werther feels sorry for Heinrich, but he also feels jealousy at the man’s ability to leave behind reality. On the next day, Werther writes to Wilhelm to tell him that he’s discovered the source of Heinrich’s madness: he once was employed by Lotte and fell hopelessly in love with her.
Like the farmer lad, Heinrich seems to offer a model for how Werther’s life might go if it continues on its current path. With the farmer lad Werther didn’t make that parallel obvious; it had to be inferred. Here, however, there is a sudden and mysterious source of information telling Werther that Lotte was the cause of Heinrich’s madness. Werther never names this source, nor does he confront Lotte about it. In fact, he never mentions it again. Up until recently, there’s been no reason to doubt Werther’s narration. But his increasing melancholy and irrational thought are starting to make him into an unreliable narrator: someone whose account of the story the reader can’t exactly trust.
Themes
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon